While it can be difficult to keep up with the constantly growing pool of microbrands popping up left and right, usually only a few float up to the top due to their standout quality, marketing, or unique designs. Brands such as Halios, Oak & Oscar, Monta, and Unimatic come to mind as brands who have staked a claim as a fixture within the microbrand universe for one reason or another. However, it seemed that seemingly out of the blue, everyone I follow on Instagram had ended up with a Nodus watch, and couldn’t stop singing the praises of it. The sheer volume of people in love with this brand’s watches intrigued me, and after a couple months with one of their latest releases, the Avalon, I understand why Nodus quickly built up a cult following.
Nodus is based out of Los Angeles, and was founded in May of 2017. As with many microbrands, the team behind Nodus is extremely passionate, and it shines through in the quality of their watches. Wes & Cullen, the co-founders of Nodus, assemble all their watches in LA, regulate the watches to four positions, and have been pushing the brand further with each release.
The Avalon on the surface seems like just another microbrand diver, in the under $750 range, however it’s once you see it in person that the fanfare starts to make sense. Uniquely designed and finely machined cases, color matched matte ceramic bezel inserts, a comfortable bracelet, hell, the Avalon even has freaking Excalibur on the caseback (cliche divers helmets or fish be damned). Let’s dive into the Avalon and what makes it tick.
As I mentioned in the intro, one of the immediate standout components of the Avalon is its case, both in design and in quality. I have often seen the Avalon compared to a Seiko Turtle, due to its cushion/tonneau shaped case, however I would more likely draw the comparison to a Doxa Sub case. With that being said, the Avalon is in no way a homage to either.
Measuring in at a diameter of 43.2mm, a lug to lug of 48mm, and a thickness of 12.9mm, the Avalon wears quite comfortably on my 6.5” wrist. While the larger diameter might seem like a non-starter for some, the short lug to lug length, and design of the bezel, makes this watch wear much smaller than its dimensions might suggest.
The majority of the case is done up in a nice tool watch styled brushed finish, with some polished accents along the side of the case to add some nice flair. One of my favorite aspects of this case design, is the downward slope design of the side of the case. This swooping design gives the profile that the watch is really hugging your wrist, and is another way that Nodus stands out from the competition with a more complex case design made possible by its CNC production method. One other detail I really appreciate here is the crown placement at the 4 o’clock position, this is such a comfortable place to put the crown and I wish more brands would do this.
Rounding out the case design, the Avalon has a steel caseback, the usual caseback specifications, and an engraving of Excalibur. Why Excalibur? Because Avalon (according to the tale) is the island where Excalibur was forged. Kinda neat little detail, I think. And of course, being a diver, we’d expect some water resistance here, and the Avalon is rated to 300 meters.
The dial of the Avalon continues the trend for high quality as set by the case design. Every hour marker is designated with an applied indice, filled with a hearty amount of Super-LumiNova C3 (green) lume. The overall design here is clean & basic, with a minimal amount of dial text, only having the Nodus logo in the upper hemisphere, and “Avalon 300m” in the lower hemisphere.
Both the blue and green versions I got to check out look great in person, and I’m glad to see Nodus embracing interesting color variants like these. Definitely a welcomed breath of fresh air from my collection of black dialed divers, and makes the Avalon feel fun & light hearted.
The hands are legible and filled with a hearty amount of lume as well, and I particularly like the pop of color added to the seconds hand. The dial of the Avalon overall isn’t over-designed, a trap that I think many microbrands can fall into, and this restrained design approach also flows through Nodus’ other models as well.
At this price point, bezels can be pretty hit or miss, especially with microbrands. It’s tough to produce a quality watch at this price point, and given the complex case design & manufacturing of the cases, I was expecting the bezel to be a point where “something had to give” to achieve the price that Nodus wanted for the Avalon.
I’m happy to say, surprisingly, that the bezel action here is fantastic. Each click is satisfying with no play between positions, it’s easy to grip and turn, and there’s a well lumed plot at the 12 mark. However the real star here, in my opinion, is the ceramic inserts that Nodus is offering on the Avalon. Sure, it’s available with a steel insert, but I’m a huge sucker for matte ceramic bezel inserts, and Nodus pulled it off very well. On the green unit I have, the bezel and dial colors match perfectly, and all the numerals are lumed (which is not the case on the steel insert). That isn’t to say that the steel inserts are bad, they’re well done and look good as well. But for only $25 extra, I’d definitely spring for the ceramic insert in the color that fits your fancy (I dig this green).
The Avalon is powered by the Miyota 9039 automatic movement, a 24 jewel movement with a power reserve of 42 hours, beating at 28,800 bph. It’s pretty standard fare to see a Miyota movement in a microbrand these days, given Swatch’s tightening on ETA distribution. Under my observation, the timekeeping has been perfectly fine, and it helps to keep the Avalon at a digestible price point.
Interestingly, Nodus includes a card in the box with the timekeeping specifications of your specific watch, taken in 4 positions: crown up, crown down, 12H down, and dial up. Both my units are showing between -6/+6; not too shabby, I’d say, a testament to Nodus’ in-house regulation process.
One important thing to note here, is that the Avalon is a no date watch, and unlike many microbrands, there is no “phantom date” position on the crown when adjusting the time. Definitely an appreciated detail, even if I miss having the date complication.
Like the bezel, I’ve often found that the achilles heel of many well done microbrand watches is in its bracelet. But again, I came away overall impressed by Nodus’ bracelet here. The Avalon’s bracelet is an H-link design, with a slight taper. The links articulate well here and I found it to be very comfortable on wrist.
The clasp has a flip-lock mechanism, with 6 micro adjust holes (wow!). Despite being a dive watch, there is no dive extension in this clasp. While I’ve never had an actual use for a dive extension, it does seem to be an odd omission for a dive watch. But, the bracelet is overall well designed and matches the style of the watch well, and it features screw-in pins, a feature that I wish that every bracelet, everywhere, utilized, as it makes the process of sizing the bracelet a breeze compared to traditional pin and collar styled bracelets.
The Avalon comes presented in a rather unassuming cardboard box, branded with the Nodus logo and model name. However once you crack it open, you’ll find a slick Nodus branded canvas watch roll, containing the watch and paperwork. This is another detail that I really appreciate about Nodus & the Avalon. I love when brands make their packaging functional outside of just being pretty, and this two-pocket watch roll would surely make for a great travel companion to toss in your bag and keep your watches safe. This is an aspect that I’ve seen a few microbrands do (namely Oak & Oscar with their watch wallets), and something that I wish more brands would do across the entire watch industry. What use is a giant suitcase sized wooden box? I’ll take a watch roll over a huge presentation box any day.
Nodus was a brand that largely wasn’t on my radar. The designs didn’t particularly speak to me in photos, but after spending time with the Avalon, I’m very impressed by what the guys over at Nodus are doing. From the finer design details of their cases, to its thoughtful elements sprinkled throughout, and even the card detailing out the exact timekeeping of your watch, timed in 4 positions, it’s clear that Nodus is focused on creating an enthusiast level watch.
There’s no fancy display casebacks or ratcheting glidelock-esque clasp, but the Avalon represents a well designed, well executed, deliberately made watch from a couple guys whose passion for watches is obvious. At a price point of $625 ($650 for the ceramic bezel), it’s really hard to find much to complain about with this watch, and I think Nodus could easily compete with other watches at double its price point. I’ll be closely following Nodus moving forward, and I suggest you do as well. In the crowded waters of the microbrand diver world, Nodus no doubt stands out. You can learn more at noduswatches.com
>Price: $625 for steel bezel insert, $650 for ceramic insert
>Size: 43.2mm diameter, 12.9mm thick, and lug to lug of 48mm.
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Absolutely. This is a comfortable, attractive watch that works well for every-day wear.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone looking for their first “nice” watch, under $1000. This is pretty tough to beat, and would serve them well.
>Best characteristic of watch: The case design and execution. I love the finer details & design here.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The bracelet clasp. While a minor issue, I would have expected a divers extension here, and would have loved a tool-less micro adjust.